Why States Should Provide Access to Driver’s Licenses to Undocumented Immigrants

Last Updated

February 11, 2014

Granting driver’s licenses to all residents improves public safety on our roads.

  • Extending driving privileges to undocumented immigrants will require individuals to take driver’s tests and properly register with the state’s motor vehicle agency.
  • Licensed drivers know the rules of the road and have a proper understanding of traffic regulations.
  • Licensed drivers will be more likely to obtain auto insurance, reducing the cost of accidents involving uninsured motorists and potentially lowering insurance rates for everyone.
  • Individuals with driver’s licenses will be less likely to flee the scene of an accident.
  • Law enforcement can better ensure public safety when they can identify motorists and access accurate traffic records.
  • Unlicensed drivers are 5 times more likely to be in a fatal car accident.[1]

Granting driver’s licenses to all residents makes our communities safer.

  • States can maintain accurate records including the names and addresses of all state residents.
  • First responders and health care providers will be better able to determine the identity of victims and patients.
  • State resources can be directed to more crucial priorities if courts and jails are less congested by issues arising from driving without a license or insurance, such as civil violations, criminal charges, and jail time.

Granting driver’s licenses to all residents benefits the economy.

  • Driver’s license application fees will generate revenue for states.
  • Enhanced mobility of immigrant workers will grow American businesses and stimulate state economies.
  • An increase in licensed drivers will boost the auto insurance and auto sales industries.
  • Unlicensed, uninsured drivers cause damage claims that cost other policy holders. More licensed and insured drivers will reduce the number of accidents and lower insurance rates for all.

Granting driver’s licenses to all residents strengthens families.

  • In this country, driving is often essential to holding a job to provide basic life necessities for one’s family, such as food, shelter, and medical care. Those who drive work more hours and earn higher wages.
  • With the permission to drive safely and legally to work, school, and elsewhere, undocumented families can participate more fully in society without the constant fear of being stopped by the police.
  • Driver’s licenses can serve as a form of identification that allows immigrant families to live more visibly in society with greater access to financial institutions, medical care, and other basic services.  For the undocumented, “a driver’s license is not only a driver’s license, it’s proof that you exist.”[2] 

Granting driver’s licenses to all residents is consistent with Catholic social teaching.

  • Individuals must work to provide for their families and contribute to society.  In this country, driving is often essential to hold a job that provides food, shelter, and medical care for families.
  • The Catholic faith calls for respecting every human being, regardless of immigration status, and acknowledging the dignity of their efforts to work in order to provide for themselves and their families.

This summary was prepared in February 2014 by Legal Fellow, Kassandra Haynes.  It is intended for informational purposes, not as legal advice. For questions, please contact CLINIC’s State and Local Advocacy Attorney, Jen Riddle, at jriddle@cliniclegal.org or (301) 565-4807. 


[1] Unlicensed to Kill, AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety (Nov. 2011), available at: www.aaafoundation.org/sites/default/files/2011Unlicensed2Kill.pdf.

[2] “Why Undocumented Immigrants Need Driver’s Licenses,” Jose Antonio Vargas, BuzzFeed (Oct 31, 2013), available at: http://www.buzzfeed.com/joseiswriting/why-undocumented-immigrants-need-drivers-licenses.